22 ways al Qaeda tries to avoid death-by-drone

A newly uncovered list advises jihadists to "hide under thick trees," plus more sophisticated methods to thwart drone warfare

Al Qaeda's nightmare: An MQ-9 Reaper drone armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt, US Air Force)

When al Qaeda militants fled Timbuktu, Mali, in January, chased out by French forces, among the things they left behind was a manila envelope with some photocopied instructions on how to avoid getting blown up by U.S. drone strikes. The Associated Press found the list in a regional tax office occupied and then abandoned by the North African offshoot of the terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. (Read the entire document, translated by the AP, below. Read the AP article here.) The tip sheet was written by Abdallah bin Muhammad, a senior commander of the Yemen-based faction al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in June 2011, about a month after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces.

Tip No. 10 — "hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes" — is believed to have originated with bin Laden himself, though it seems like a pretty obvious idea. The other 21 "tactics of deception and blurring" include similarly simple tips — No. 9: "Hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night" — but also some pretty sophisticated ideas for jamming or misleading the drones (No. 2: Use "devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. The mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made 'Racal'") and a few fairly improbable schemes (No. 18: Create "fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy").

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